Three Harvard grad students experimented with whether there was ethnic prejudice in local election administration by emailing every local or county election official, commission and supervisor in 48 states with Latino-sounding and non-Latino-sounding names and examined the responses. What they found were that local election officials were three-and-a-half to four-times more likely to respond to the emails that came from the non-Latino name, Greg Walsh, than the Latino name, Luis Rodriguez.
The gap in those responses grew three points wider when their emails contained questions about voter ID.
The students were able to find qualitative bias as well, meaning even when election officials responded to the Latino name, the information included was less accurate or informative than the information given to "Greg Walsh."
"Our results indicate that changes to existing voting regulations are likely to differentially increase information costs for Latino voters because public officials are less responsive to their inquiries than to non-Latinos," wrote the study’s authors.
The Washington Post asked True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht about the study. She didn’t pass it to her Latino counterpart Voto Honesto — which appears to no longer exist — but rather the Texan of German background took it upon herself to dismiss the findings, calling it "a conclusion in desperate search of a viable methodology."
This is a clumsy flip of the common rejoinder against her own advocacy for voter ID laws, which voting rights advocates call "a solution in search of a problem."
Says Aura Bogado, our Voting Rights Watch reporter from last year, and current blogger for The Nation: "The study is especially worrisome when one considers that elections officials still do not view Latinos–who makes up the nation’s fastest growing population–as a legitimate voting base."
Recent voting data from Census on last November’s elections show a drop in the Hispanic voting rate from 2008